Hello, my old friend.
Aircraft Type: A320-200
Class: Economy Class
Date: Sep 2014
Best For: Bargain hunters who desire affordable tickets, reliable service and a flexible schedule to maximize weekend getaways.
Most Likely To Sit Next To: Singaporeans heading to Bangkok to eat and shop!
Routes: The A320 is the airline’s sole aircraft type. Hot seats in front offer more legroom, but the slimline seats across the entire aircraft make regional travel comfortable enough.
Frequent Flyer Programme: AirAsia Big. Unlike full-service airlines’ programmes, AirAsia Big uses a points system based on expenditure. AirAsia only counts DBS and StarHubs as its only Singapore merchants which means, for Singaporeans, it’s not worth joining.
Best Bits: Food, Schedules and Don Mueang Airport.
Worst Bits: Changi congestion, as always.
Dominated by fast fashion chains, analogous luxury labels and stiff independent movements, shopping in Singapore is a costly endeavor no matter which way you swing. It just isn’t practical, and thankfully, Singaporeans don’t necessarily need to run with it. There are a plethora of online shopping platforms, but why shop online when you combine shopping with a proper weekend getaway?
Multiple-time consecutive winner of Skytrax’s Best Low-Cost Airline (Asia Pacific), the AirAsia group of airlines have been on my “to-fly” list for quite some time now. Although the airline group connects Singapore with a myriad of cities across Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, few are major tourist destinations. So, flying to Bangkok offered me a chance to actually fly the airline.
I didn’t mind splurging, but according to http://www.seatguru.com, the Hot Seats spanning rows 1 to 5 offered little advantage in terms of seat pitch and width. Pre-selection of seats is available, with Hot Seats and emergency row seats at SGD 15, window seats at SGD 5, aisle seats at SGD 3. I also ordered a hot meal (actually, it came with my fare tier). At SGD 129 one-way, it seemed like a really fair deal.
On The Ground:
AirAsia group of carriers depart from Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 1, which has been given a well-documented refurbishment to bring it in line with the swanky Terminal 3.
The check-in space is large, but AirAsia for some reason, bunches its arrivals (and obviously, departures) into Singapore. This translates into long queues, but fortunately, everybody appears to be seasoned budget travelers and everyone is processed very quickly. The check-in agents are cheery, but this disposition is shared more amongst themselves than with the passengers.
While AirAsia offers a Red Carpet Service (SGD 60) which entitles passengers to lounge access and priority boarding and baggage tagging, there are no shortage of activities airside. Terminal 1’s newest attraction is The Social Tree, a digital photo time capsule. There is also a wide array of affordable food options – seemingly cheaper than Terminal 2 and 3.
While the AirAsia branding is operated around the color red, it is less obtrusive and striking once you’re a passenger. The cabin is surprisingly characterized by mostly black leather seats with the accents of red seen only on the Hot Seats headrests, and the cabin crew uniform. The atmosphere is otherwise surprisingly discreet and understated, and the black leather emotes a sense of comfort and ease. My seat, 22A in the second half of the aircraft, was specially picked to provide a decent view of the wing.
Interestingly, the seat, which would be considered an older generation slimline, was very comfortable. The seat pitch seemed to be a lot larger than advertised. To compensate for the reality of the limited legroom, the angle of recline is limited, but reasonable enough for comfort.
None, but on a daytime regional flight in the equatorial region, who needs AVOD when you can simply look out of the window and see the azure blue waters, continuous slim white beaches defining the coastlines, and the paddy rice fields that characterize so much of Southeast Asia?
The food, along with the airline’s reliability, is by far the best element of the airline. AirAsia is one of the few airlines in Southeast Asia that has mastered the art of monetizing the people’s love for food, and turning up some of the best inflight local favorites I’ve ever eaten. Just observing the amount of passengers who’ve pre-ordered meals, you’d have thought that you’re traveling on a full-service airline. The airline’s signature Pak Naseer Nasi Lemak was a superb blend of sweet, savory and spice. Prices on the airline’s inflight menu are also reasonable enough for a drink and a nibble. The Thai AirAsia cabin crew were very busy with the BOB service, I can tell you that. I would fly AirAsia again just to try their other dishes.
Flying into Don Mueang instead of Suvarnabhumi is truly beyond words. As a less busy, closer to downtown airport than the nation’s international gateway, everything from immigration to baggage claim is much faster. In addition, compared to Suvarnabhumi, few if anyone even bothers to haggle you into taking an overpriced airport limousine service.